28 Nov 2022

PM Jacinda Ardern denies government soft on crime

10:02 am on 28 November 2022
Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern said identifying and working with about 70 young people identified as contributing to burglaries had helped bring down the number of crimes. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Cabinet will discuss interventions with young people that have helped reduce burglaries and ram raids and whether they can be extended, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Ardern attended the funeral on Sunday of 34-year-old Janak Patel who was fatally stabbed while working at Rose Cottage Superette in Sandringham, Auckland.

Ardern said she understood why dairy owners and smaller retailers felt vulnerable, but denied accusations the government was soft on crime.

It had focused attention on ram raids and $500m of additional funding had gone into the police's crime prevention unit, she told Morning Report.

"We know we have to keep doing what we can to ensure people feel safe in their cities."

Ardern said ram raid numbers had declined to about 13 this month.

One of the reasons was the impact of prosecutions and convictions, she said.

The other was the intervention with about 70 young people identified as contributing to the problem, some repeatedly, that resulted in half of them getting back into education and training, she said.

"We've worked on specific plans for each of those individual children because in those cases you've got to work with the family too."

"What [Cabinet] will be talking about today are what are the interventions we've been using that we believe are working, can we look to extend some of those."

She rejected accusations the Labour government had not placed tough enough consequences on youth offenders - primarily resolving offending through non-court action in 2021.

Young people from the age of 15 who commit crime are still able to be brought before the court, she said.

But 12 or 13 year olds, for example, would go to court only for offences attracting a penalty of 14 years - which meant aggravated burglary was covered but burglary was not.

This was where the plan for working with children and their families came in, she said. "We brought down offending because of that."

"We have not lessened the penalties on any individual crime."

Rather they have increased police resources, brought in a firearm registry and increased penalties for firearm-related crimes.

"I worry that sometimes these conversations just come down to rhetoric.

"Where have you ever heard us say that if you're a young person and commit a crime that there won't be consequence for that? There is. All we have ever argued is that when we intervene lets make it work."

There would also be discussion later week on penalties around fleeing drivers, she said.

On delays in having bollards installed, she said one factor was that once an assessment was made after a ram raid, it can take some time for insurance to be completed and contractors brought in.

There were up to 120 which were ready to go but waiting for installation to be completed.

From 12.30pm until 2.30pm today, some dairy owners would close their shops to send a "strong message" to the government, Dairy and Business Association chair Sunny Kaushal said.

Kaushal said emotions were running high and there was a lot of anger about what had happened to Patel.

"Enough is enough," Kaushal said. "Something need to be done."

Sunny Kaushal Of Shakespeare Hotel, Restaurant and Brewery.

Dairy and Business Association chairperson Sunny Kaushal. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Kaushal said the government needed to accept and admit there was a crime emergency.

He didn't believe the concerns of his organisation had been heard in the last five years.

Kaushal said more visible police were needed on the streets to act as a deterrent.

"When you and I, when we are driving and we see a cop car, what do we do? We check our speed because it is a deterrent.

"We need more police on the streets patrolling, more visible police, more enforcement and more deterrent. It's simple."

Kaushal said dairy owners needed outcomes - and not just words from the government.

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